Cultural Landscape of Hadley, Massachusetts
Located on the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts, Hadley was settled in 1659 by English Puritans. The colonists laid out a village, common, and an “open-field” farming system in the Great Meadow. This arrangement of slender, unfenced, elongated land parcels bounded by the river has endured since the time of the allotments to original settlers. Open-field farming was widespread in medieval and early modern Europe, but only the earliest New England settlements set up this type of agricultural system, and most had disappeared by the 18th century. This survival on such a large scale, over the centuries and through American industrialization in the northeastern United States, is incredibly improbable.
After 350 years of continuous farming, this landscape and this heritage is at risk. A floodplain zone protects a portion of the 350-acre Great Meadow, but 165 acres are zoned for residential and commercial use, providing no long-term protection for the historic landscape and land use. Both the scenic beauty and historic context of Hadley could be compromised if preservation measures are not pursued. Watch listing seeks to raise awareness about this rare survivor of 17th-century agriculture, promote visitation, and engage the local community in its stewardship.